ByLd Kristoffer J Chelidoni, writer at
Ld Kristoffer J Chelidoni

Sometimes when we become enamored with a story and fall in love with its characters it is difficult to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. I was recently thinking about Harry Potter and how it progressed after reading, probably for the umpteenth time the theory that prophecy about Voldemort and Harry meant that they could only kill each other and once whom ever killed the other had succeeded the one who succeeded would be immortal and it got me thinking, who is the real hero in this story?

Throughout the series we're informed that "He Who Must Not Be Named" is the villain, that is Voldemort or Tom Riddle. Everything we learn of this dark wizard is of his apparent actions. Third party witnesses explaining to Harry Potter who Voldemort is from their perspective. Yet we never truly learn anything about Voldemort from him. That means everything we know of Tom Riddle, for the most part, is unreliable and suspect. All we know of him comes from Dumbledore, Slughorn, the ramblings of his Death Eaters including Snape, and a few moments dealing with his various horocruxes.

So let's start at the beginning. Let us assume that what we were told about who he was born to is accurate, his muggle father and his witch mother. We know his early life was quite difficult. His father left before he was born after Merope Gaunt stopped giving him the love potion, the two were divorced and Merope left Tom Marvolo Riddle to grow up in an orphanage. Tom was born on December 31st though the exact date isn't know and his mother died giving birth to him. However, we do know he was alive during WWII.

In the orphanage, like many children, he was picked on and bullied which translated to anger above the frustration of never knowing one's parents. His entire life he was alone and essentially shunned. Not only that, but because this was during WWII many of the children in the orphanage had parents who went to war, a sign of patriotism that Tom couldn't share in. He'd bear witness to the atrocities of WWII before being introduced to the magic world.

We learn that he started to use his magical powers early on to control and manipulate the other children of the Orphanage and is how Dumbledore comes to know of Tom Riddle. Beyond this point our understanding and knowledge of Tom Riddle becomes rather unreliable.

But consider what we do know thus far, Voldemort is a dejected child who learns that he is special, that he has magic and that there is a community of people who are willing to accept him because of this ability. We have a boy going from a lonely outsider dejected by other students from whom he steals from because he feels he has nothing in the world, to a boy who learns he has the world at his finger tips. A person who gains that sort of privilege would protect that privilege with everything they have, right?

Other things that are for certain; one) he must have killed people to make the horocruxes, two) he is a descendant of Slytherin and three) he is related to Harry Potter along with most of the major wizarding families, at least distantly.

Now, we know that Tom Riddle entered into Hogwarts in either 1938 or 39, his first murder, if we assume the memory from his uncle Morfin Gaunt to be correct, coincides with the first atomic attacks in Japan and his second murder with the second bombing only a few weeks apart. His first murder is Tom Riddle Sr which he used to create his first horocrux, the Gaunt family ring. It is important to note that this coincides with the Hiroshima bombing. Riddle up until this point was, to say the least a disturbed boy, but not a murderer, not an evil leader. He, like all teenagers, was insecure and feared losing what he'd grown to care for, Hogwarts and the wizarding world. Being born in the Muggle world he'd have followed the muggle war (WWII) and realized that the magic world he now loved and lived in was in peril. This is the only logical reason I can think of to explain his irrational fear of death. In fact every effort he makes to learn of immortality is done so because of this fear and not a want to gain power. Tom Riddle learns of the Horocrux process from Slughorn in the fall semester just months prior to the end of WWII and the dropping of the atomic bombs. It isn't until after the first bomb is dropped, however, that he decides to pursue their creation. There is no other logical answer to this other than a rationale of preserving the magical realm by some means if something were to happen. This is further supported by the fact that he made seven horocruxes, not just one. He knew full well the danger of ripping his soul apart to make them, he's researched it and even told by Slughorn that it can cause problems, but to him preservation of the wizarding world seems crucial. If it weren't for some ulterior motive beyond his own preservation, then why wait?

His first murder is his father, and arguably to a degree it is revenge for leaving he and his mother and for his mother's death. But his first horocrux is his most powerful horocrux, so powerful that it curses Dumbledore for trying to destroy it while using the Elder Wand. This is a key point, a single horocrux would have been far easier to safe guard than seven would. The only reason why Voldemort would create so many more would be to insure his return and with it the magical knowledge he'd obtained if anything were to happen. More horocruxes mean that there are more places to hide them so that if anything were to happen to one or more there'd always be one more left. This first death he blames on his Uncle, who, let's face it, didn't come to take him from the orphanage or to care for him, it would certainly seem that the Gaunt family has a fairly big problem with taking care of their own, but this is also possibly a ruse on Dumbledore's part.

Consider that the wizarding world has rules that clearly state that a person who murders another person loses their rights to use magic and is more than likely to be sent to Azkaban. What if Morfin Gaunt, having been in Azkaban knew that Tom wouldn't make it in there and had suffered enough in the orphanage. What if Tom never intended to kill his father but the anger boiled inside him as he confronted his father over being abandoned and he lost control, much like Harry lost control and inflated his aunt? What if Morfin covered for his nephew as an act of saving grace? This is just as likely. We also know that horocruxes can be made accidentally and it is possible that Tom had no intention of making the first horocrux at all, but once he had, he realized the value in doing so.

His second murder happens right after the second bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, the death of Moaning Myrtle. This death too is arguably not Tom Riddle's doing, per se. Moaning Myrtle was killed by the basilisk, which was to under the limited control of Tom Riddle. This is his second most powerful horocrux, his journal, and it too may have been entirely accidental. He then kills once more Hepzibah Smith, or so we are told. You see Hepzibah had befriended Tom Riddle and even shared with him her two prized possessions the locket of Salazar Slytherin and the cup of Helga Hufflepuff. We know that Tom turned the cup and the locket into horocruxes, and it is claimed that he killed Smith and then changed the memory of her house-elf, Hokey, so she'd believe she killed her with poison. But it is also just as possible that Hokey did in fact actually kill her master by accident, being a rather old elf. Which begs a new question, what if killing itself has nothing to do with the creation of horocruxes, but death in general?

Then he stops, he's satisfied he has enough horocruxes that if something were to happen that the magical world would be safe. He stops killing and applies to be a Teacher at Hogwarts. Think about this, he wants to teach the next generation of wizards and wants to stay at the school. He doesn't have plans to create the Death Eaters, he doesn't have plans to become Voldemort, he doesn't have plans kill again. It'd take nearly a decade, after being rejected for a teaching post, for Voldemort and the Death Eaters to arise, right about the time that Lilly and James and the Marauders are at Hogwarts.

Tom Riddle, being rejected as a teacher by Dumbledore who'd just become headmaster, baffled him and angered him. To him it was his father rejecting him once more. He fled not to be seen again. We're told that he kills an unknown "muggle tramp" (aka prostitute/whore/street urchin) to turn the locket (his family heirloom) into yet another horocrux, but the details of this death are unknown and death is commonplace for homeless people.

Tom Riddle doesn't resurface until the height of the Vietnam war, the first major war since WWII that nuclear warfare was considered to be used in, and one of the longest wars in modern history, running from 1956-1975. The Vietnam war included many of the same world powers from WWII and represented the same threat to the magical world that WWII did in the eyes of Tom Riddle, who by this time took the name Lord Voldemort. He'd collected, by this point many followers deemed Death Eaters, and he set a purpose down to stop any chance of muggle warfare entering into the Wizarding World. He decided to take the offensive and attack the muggles and those muggle-born who could potentially reveal the wizarding world and endanger it. Of course his followers had their own warped grasp of this tactic and didn't understand the fear that Tom Riddle had, distorting his purpose with their own more malign and sanguine ideas.

Tom Riddle's actions would lead to the Wizarding war that would lead to the death of Lilly and James Potter and the creation of yet another horocrux, this time inside of Harry Potter himself. Only this brings us back to an earlier question, what if killing has nothing to do with the formation of the horocrux, but rather death, any death, even those caused by accident or through natural causes? What if what we're told about how Harry's parents died isn't true and they were killed by Death Eaters, not at the hands of Voldemort? What if Voldemort came into the bedroom to find Harry's parents dead and not wanting for another wizarding child to be raised in an orphanage as he had, decided to kill Harry out of mercy only for the magic of love to protect Harry from the Avada Kadavra (death) spell? What if Voldemort formed the horocrux within Harry Potter truly on accident as he had with all of his horocruxes through the energy of his own death splicing into Harry the last remaining bit of his soul he had left?

Now some of you maybe thinking, well what of the other deaths, what of Cedric Diggory, or the other muggles during Harry Potter's time?

Again we can look to the fact that Voldemort or Tom Riddle if you will, is fearing for his life and the world he's come to love. A world that has rejected him as many others have before hand. In the first book he is part of Professor Quirrell. He seeks the philosopher stone to come back to full form. This last small piece, a shadow of Tom Riddle as he was before was corrupted and sustained by the blood of the unicorn. It wasn't a true life, it was no more than an apparition with a limited amount of the knowledge of who Tom was. This first version seeks the same thing that Tom Riddle always sought, salvation in life and preservation. He didn't really go after Harry Potter through most of the book. It is only after Harry and his friends get in his way that he seeks to remove them as an obstacle.

Throughout the books we also learn that the horocruxes are all interconnected, including the one in Harry's head, giving him Parseltongue and access to the thoughts of Voldemort. Which means that when the initial encounter with Harry ended Tom's existence as he was connected to Quirrell, that experience was translated to all of the different horocruxes. Yet each Horocrux seems to act individually as well. The version of Tom who comes out of the journal says to Harry "I've been wanting to meet you" (paraphrased). From the moment that Harry got in his way of returning is the moment that Harry became his enemy. Unwittingly Harry stood up against Tom Riddle and his primary goal of preservation; of his own life and the magical world as he saw it.

Every version of Voldemort that then returns in some form or another is more perverted than the next, changed and influenced by the magics that were used to bring him back to life, and as each piece is destroyed a part of his soul and the connection that made him Tom Riddle was lost. The initial causes and reasons for his actions distorted or forgotten until he became the monster we see in the final books.

What of the prophecy? I'd argue that Tom Riddle didn't know whom the prophecy meant, being that Neville Longbottom could just as easily been the chosen one. What more, by this point Tom's soul was a wreck, split apart so many times that his humanity was waning. His actions weren't entirely his own, driven by the Death Eaters around him (like LeStrange), who had their own agendas.

One must wonder then, how many wizards and witches were killed during WWII? How many in all the different muggle wars? Who is Tom Riddle really? Is he the evil wizard portrayed in the Harry Potter novels, or is he a misunderstood wizard trying to keep the world, that was his, alive and safe despite an outside non-magical unaware world constantly at war, constantly threatening the wizarding world with new technology and weapons that rival the magic protections in place?


What do you think, is Voldemort the real villain, a hero, a desperate soul blamed for the actions of others?


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